June 27, 2009
Doubtless my readers have all heard about the fatal crash earlier this week of two metro trains at rush hour, along an above-ground route that I travel almost every day for my Spanish interpretation work. After Monday evening’s accident, which killed 9 people and injured many more, metro travel in that area, which I had to undertake all this past week, was exceedingly slow and arduous. Passengers had to dismount from a station far from the accident site, get on a bus that went from one closed metro station to another picking up and dropping off, until we had passed the whole shut-down area and could get back on a train to continue on our way. For 2-hour assignments, I had to spend at least 5 hours going to and from. However, my inconvenience was trivial compared to what so many had suffered. Still, I am hoping that trains will be going straight through again by next week.
There was an understandable drop in ridership after the accident, although there had been only one fatal accident (with fewer casualties) before, back in 1982. I also noticed that passengers were now shying away from the front and rear cars, where people were killed or injured in the crash. Among the fatalities was a 40-year-old Salvadoran single mother of 6, Ana Fernandez.
One of my other interpretation assignments last week took me in the opposite direction to a hospital in Bethesda, where the patient, an 18-year-old Salvadoran boy with heart symptoms, was enrolled in an NIH research study. He had crossed the border alone at age 12 to join an older brother living here. His parents are still in El Salvador. Since he had no legal guardian here, he had to wait until he reached 18 to be able to sign consent as an adult so his heart condition could be examined. He was accompanied to the hospital by his brother’s wife, who spoke no English, though my patient did. Mainly, I was there for her but I also felt this boy needed moral support, as he seemed shy and fearful. He asked for a tranquilizer before entering the MRI machine.
After his tests were over, I asked the hospital to send the boy and his sister-in-law home in a cab as they had no car. I waited with them outside the hospital until it arrived. The driver was a Spanish-speaking woman and, after my long trek earlier in the day around the damaged track in the opposite direction, I asked her to please drop me off at the nearest metro station on her way to taking the boy and his sister-in-law home so I wouldn’t have to wait for the bus. Female taxi drivers, especially who speak Spanish, are rare in my experience, in fact, I’d never encountered one before.
It turned out his lady, about age 50, had come from Cuba 7 years before and learned to drive in order to drive a taxi. I asked her how she had gotten out of Cuba. She said she had met a Brazilian tourist who had agreed to marry her so she could leave. “You know,” she said, “Our life in Cuba was unbearable.” I said I knew, because I had visited there. After she got to Brazil, her new husband facilitated her departure for the US while he stayed behind in Brazil. “He had seen how we were living in Cuba and he did me a big favor. He never even charged me anything.” I didn’t find out how she had met the Brazilian tourist (was she working in a hotel?) and how she had actually gotten to the US, as by then, we had reached the metro station where I got off.